McLaren: failing infrastructure is catalyst for developing Scottsdale bond program

Scottsdale is a beautiful and special place because we have invested in our city. Communities thrive when they continue to improve and ensure that all infrastructure serves the purpose for which it was built.

Alex McLaren

For some years now we in Scottsdale have allowed our built environment to depreciate at too fast of a rate.

The bridge over the Arizona Canal on 68th street needs to be completely rebuilt, that’s why it is under traffic restrictions at present. The bridge over Drinkwater Boulevard on the Scottsdale Mall is also under study to determine how best to restore its structural integrity. That is why the fountains have been drained.

These are two blatant examples of aging infrastructure. There is a need to maintain and to install new infrastructure to keep Scottsdale a vibrant city.

The city council held a study session on Tuesday, March 27 to discuss this need and how to develop and fund a plan to move forward. The Capital Improvements Council Subcommittee, appointed by the council, has been working for over a year on this issue.

There is unanimity among all council members that a significant investment must be made to address our needs. Discussion of improvements and upgrades to the tune of $350 to $420 million were discussed. The projects were developed over the past year by city staff and the CIP subcommittee, and were originally in the range of over $800 million.

There appeared to be general agreement among the majority of the council that the best way to fund these improvements is by the use of general obligation bonds. GO bonds must be approved by a vote of the citizens of a community and the bonds are repaid via property taxes.

There was also discussion on Tuesday about a possible funding source being an increase in the sales tax to fund the agreed improvements. Any increase in the sales tax must also be approved by the voters.

The city of Scottsdale has a long history in issuing GO bonds. Large portions of the Indian Bend Wash was constructed using GO bonds, two bond elections for the project failed but after a major flood in 1972 voters approved the project. Scottsdale Stadium was rebuilt as a result of the 1989 Bond election.

The couplet road system of Goldwater Boulevard and Drinkwater Boulevard were also part of the 1989 program. Major roadway projects on Scottsdale Road, Pima Road, Hayden Road, Indian Bend Road (the beautiful horses) were constructed as a result of the 2000 bond election. The Civic Center Library expansion was also a bond 2000 project. Senior Centers are a result of bond projects.

The city has a AAA bond rating, which is the highest possible, from the major rating agencies and has the available bonding capacity to fund any proposed improvements. Our stellar rating is a result of the rating agencies reaffirming their confidence in the city’s financial management and our economic outlook.

There was discussion on Tuesday evening that the last three Bond elections (2010, 2013 and only 2 questions approved in 2015) were not successful. As Councilwomen Milhaven pointed out this negative outcome was a result of active opposition to the bond propositions (2013) by sitting council members.

The current city council is agreed that we need to move forward to invest and re-invest in our beautiful city of Scottsdale. The council, in the next few weeks will be considering how to move forward with this current proposed bond program and I would urge fellow citizens to follow the process and become informed.

The city’s web site has all the past information and will be updated as the plan develops.

Editor’s note: Mr. McLaren is a Scottsdale resident and a member of the city’s Bond Oversight Committee

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